Adolph Rupp, the legendary basketball coach at Kentucky, said in
1962, "If I had my choice of one man in the country to build my
team around, it would be Cotton Nash." The 6'5", 220-pound Nash
was quick, smart and a deft passer. He played all five positions
for the Wildcats, earning All-America honors in the frontcourt
as a senior, and might have gone on to a decent pro career had
it not been for one weakness: He loved baseball.
Dubbed Cotton-top for his blond hair, Charles Nash spent much of
his early childhood on diamonds in his hometown of Kearny, N.J.
When his family moved from New Jersey to Indiana to Texas to
Louisiana, because of his father's job with DuPont, Nash expanded
his athletic repertoire--he starred in basketball and football as
well as baseball, and set a Louisiana high school record in the
discus--but he never lost his attachment to the national pastime.
After he graduated from Kentucky in 1964, having hit .297 as a
senior first baseman, Nash decided to play basketball and
baseball professionally. Following a summer of minor league ball
with the San Jose Bees, a Los Angeles Angels farm team, he
immediately went to the L.A. Lakers' training camp. He made the
team but was traded in midseason to the San Francisco Warriors.
"It just got to be a grind because I didn't have an off-season to
recuperate," says Nash, who averaged 3.0 points per game. "The
mental and physical exhaustion from having to be at my very best
every day hurt me in both sports."
Nash quit basketball, but two years later he was lured back by
the ABA's Kentucky Colonels. After one mediocre season he finally
decided to stick to baseball. Although he led the Triple A
American Association with 33 home runs in 1970 and the next
season hit 37 dingers while batting .290 in the Triple A Pacific
Coast League, he never had more than a cup of coffee with the
Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins.
In 1972 Nash retired from playing baseball but not from sports.
He and his wife of 36 years, Julie, live in Lexington, Ky., near
their five-year-old triplet grandsons and one of their three
grown children. Nash, now 57, races standardbred horses and
breeds them at Hunterton Farm in Paris, Ky. In '95 his Magic
Shopper won The Jugette, the most prestigious harness race for
fillies. "I've been an athlete all my life," says Nash. "Now I'm
sort of a coach."
COLOR PHOTO: JAMES DRAKE (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN F. GRIESHOP
"It just got to be a grind," says Nash of his two-sport career.
"I didn't have an off-season to recuperate."